Pain Relief at Home:
To be human is to experience pain. According to the CDC, an estimated 20% of U.S. adults suffer from chronic pain, and almost 20 million have high-impact chronic pain. And by now, we are all aware of the dangerous after-effects of prescription pain medications like opioids. Regular use of drugs like Codeine, Fentanyl, Hydrocodone, and Oxycodone – even when prescribed by a doctor – can lead to dependence, addiction or worse. So, alternatives are needed when it comes to chronic or acute pain.
Over-the-counter topical pain relievers (rubs, creams, sprays, etc.) can work wonders for aching muscles and joints. When applied to the skin, products with the right combination of ingredients can pack a short-term pain-relieving punch. While topical aspirin and ibuprofen can certainly be effective, here are some of the best options when it comes to natural, non-prescription ingredients:
Menthol, camphor and oil of evergreen
Menthol, camphor and oil of evergreen are often added to products to provide a hot or cool feeling that can help create a temporary distraction from the pain. These topicals do nothing to treat the source of the pain; instead they confuse the pain signals in the brain from feeling the pain.
Capsaicin which makes hot chili peppers hot, is also extremely effective in topical pain products, as it activates certain nerve cells (source: WebMD). It works much in the same way as the menthol and camphor do, by confusing a neurotransmitter that communicates pain signals to the brain.
Arnica is typically used to treat bruises, so it can be helpful in the healing process. Arnica is also used to treat pain (source: Drugs.com) by working on the cellular level to change the processes in your white blood cells, producing anti-inflammatory benefits. In addition, arnica has been shown to improve circulation to the tissues while strengthening blood vessels. The result is a speedier recovery.
Peppermint has been used as a home remedy for muscle pain for thousands of years. It also has a distracting, cooling effect as well as analgesic, antispasmodic, and anti-inflammatory properties.
Eucalyptus and Pine Scotch
Eucalyptus and Pine Scotch are both anti-inflammatories that may reduce inflammation by opening up blood vessels, thus reducing pain. And if its topical benefits aren’t enough: In one study that evaluated the use of eucalyptus oil inhalation for treatment of those suffering from osteoarthritis, the aromatherapy treatment markedly reduced pain symptoms as well as the associated cortisol levels.
Lemongrass, other plant medicine with a long history, aids muscle recovery when added to a carrier oil, such as hemp. Lemongrass also has aromatic properties known to help distract from pain and lower stress levels.
CBD: According to Medical Daily, topical ointments and rubs containing CBD have been shown to do the following: help with arthritic joint pain and other inflammatory pain by targeting the joints; help alleviate chronic back pain; speed up the body’s healing due to injury, acting as a “spot-treatment.”
Other drug-free methods for dealing with muscle and joint pain include hot and cold packs. Cold numbs and keeps the swelling down. Heat, on the other hand, relaxes muscles and dilates blood vessels, which increases blood circulation. For sore muscles, light massage toward the heart is also soothing. And, when choosing natural remedies, consider the aromatics of the products you buy. Aromatherapy boosts the pain-relieving properties of the other ingredients by lowering your anxiety, your stress hormones, and even your heart rate.
To avoid damage to your skin while using all of these methods and ingredients, keep these tips in mind:
- Keep a barrier, like a towel, between you and the cold/hot pad.
- Never use cold/hot pads on open wounds or in combination with rubs or creams.
- Spend no more than 15 minutes each with cold/heat sources.
- Always wash your hands thoroughly after applying cold/hot rubs or creams to avoid getting the product in your eyes.
- Read directions carefully before trying a new product.